My Testimony Presentation at my church's Men’s Ministry Breakfast 12/7/2002

December 7th, 1992 – “My Pearl Harbor Day”

I’m going to talk about my “personal” testimony this morning. I would like to share with you how my “personal relationship” with our Lord began and the history before and after my Pearl Harbor Day, which was exactly ten years ago today. One paradox is that unlike the December 7th Pearl Harbor Day, which was the beginning of the war with Japan, my December 7th was the end of a war with God when I made peace with Him. That thought reminded me of Romans 5:1, which says: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” (You see, this passage specifically means that those who do not truly know Jesus as the Son of God are at war with God. It stands to reason that God can’t lose a war, only man can. But God provided his Son so that we could enjoy peace instead of losing the war.)

I would like to set the context of this timeframe in my life 10 years ago by relating some facts here in the spirit of what Paul said in Philippians 3:4-14 (which I will quote later):

AS FOR my early fleshly life (as opposed to my new spiritual Life in Christ):

  • I was circumcised and baptized at an early age
  • I am the first generation, first-born male from proud, uneducated, and hardworking immigrant parents from Switzerland
  • I had a wonderful upbringing with very little to no dysfunction in our family.
  • I had a wonderful private parochial education through the university level.
  • I was a “walk on water” Army officer that moved rapidly through the ranks and was stationed around the world from Korea to five straight years in Germany where I commanded two units including a nuclear missile unit with three locations in Northern Germany. I was the senior Army officer in that section of Northern Germany.
    (You could say, I was at the top of MY game. The Apostle Paul was at the top of his game as a murderer of Christians before he saw and heard the Light and fell off of his high horse on the road to Damascus.)
  • Then, an extremely traumatic experience happened in my military career and I went from the top 5% to the bottom 5%. I was destroyed and brought down into the basement – whatever accomplishments I thought I had seemed shattered and utterly meaningless. That is a whole other story – one that we don’t have time for today. Later, I climbed out of the basement and went on to regain my self-esteem and position, and did well; but the damage had been done to my military career and I was honorably discharged in 1988. Now, I realize that even though I didn’t know the Lord then, through all this anguish and despair, he was somehow guiding my path that would lead to the death of MYSELF.

    SO let’s fast-forward to December 1992:

    • I had started my own business in January 1991 after the company I worked for over a year went into bankruptcy. I was in heavy credit card debt.

    • I was still feeling sorry for myself, after being an officer in the US Army and Ranger/Airborne qualified for 11 years, 3 months and 17days (not that I counted :-), because I became a civilian 12 years behind my contemporaries with no really marketable skills. (I was way behind the power curve.)

    • On a somewhat positive worldly side, I was and had served in several business leadership and community board positions.

    • I had been unable to make some monthly house payments, so I had to rely on my parents to bail me out. I constantly felt awful and very unworthy about that because I thought of others who did NOT have parents that could do that – so why me? (My self worth was directly tied to my net worth, which was way below zero.)

    • I was right at the end of an amicable divorce after four years of marriage (we got married for all the wrong reasons, and I learned the hard way that you can’t change somebody; you would think I would have been smarter; hey, I thought I was) – I do remember an earlier conversation with my ex-wife where we discussed that everything was fine in our lives mentally, we were physically healthy, emotionally things were satisfying, BUT there was this very real spiritual void. Like, will the real God please stand up: Is it Buddha, Mohammad, Jesus Christ, or Joseph Smith (we had some great Mormon friends) or which denomination was the right one? – Being raised Catholic I knew that the Protestants, whoever they were, were all messed up. I mean imagine, a pastor being married. And also having taken Comparative Religion classes in college, I thought I was an over-educated, confused guy, but in reality, I was an under-educated, “prideful” guy.

    • My ex-wife had moved back to Georgia and I found myself alone in my house upstairs sitting on the edge of my bed with my .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol in my hand. I chambered a round and I sat there thinking that there was no place lower I could be. I also realized that there was no way I could ever pull the trigger. It was more like: “self, you are at the bottom of the barrel, there is no way to go, but up.”

    Now keep in mind, to the outside world, I drove my black BMW that I brought over from Germany and daily “dressed for success” in my suits with silk ties. I attended many business social events to promote my new business and meet prospective customers, and I usually saw an elderly businessman there who was sort of a loud mouth, but talked about Jesus a lot almost every time I saw him at these Chamber of Commerce business socials around the county. When you are a regular at these networking mixers you eventually get to know everyone. I got to know Skip at these business socials and one evening he gave me a salvation tract, which I didn’t read, but for some reason kept. [Here it is...]

    As I was writing down these memories, it dawned on me that apparently my ex-wife and I had just recently started attending a Christian church because it was close to home and Skip apparently knew we were going to church, even though he did not worship there; maybe I told him, I don’t remember. That’s why he kept enthusiastically saying how great it was to know Jesus. He probably suspected that I really in fact did NOT know Jesus.

    NOW it was the evening of December 7th, 1992 that that tract Skip had given me was on my nightstand. How it got there, I do not remember although I received it many months earlier. As I read it and came to the pages where it talked about receiving Jesus Christ by faith, I was vividly transported back to my Ethics 401 class in college in the Spring of 1977. (And believe me, I don’t remember much of college at all, it is truly unbelievable to me that I can remember this!)

    I was sitting in the front row that day (which was unusual for me) and the Jesuit priest was talking about how one could not go to heaven without faith. I remember that I had a negative reaction to that and even asked a question. All I know is that I categorically denied accepting this “faith thing because, by God, I WAS A GOOD PERSON. I didn’t do evil things and I was raised where we had to go to Church every Sunday (even though I stopped going in college). Hey, I was a nice guy and, (in my ignorant arrogance) I thought I was pretty smart! I AM GOING TO HEAVEN ACCORDING TO “MY” WAY OF THINKING, AND THAT’S THAT! Today in hindsight, I can now sort of imagine God saying: “Well O-- K, we’ll see!”

    Well, after reading the many scripture verses and explanations in the tract, I decided to accept and take Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I finally understood that the priest in my Ethics 401 class had been talking about faith in Jesus Christ those 15 years ago. I prayed the prayer in the tract and signed my name as it asked me to. Well, I was half expecting some incredible feeling or Holy Ghost presence, but nothing, nada, zippo. So I went to sleep. (I didn’t fully understand till months or years later that moments before I had been instantly justified before God the Father and had embarked on a long sanctification process where I would constantly, with the help of the Holy Spirit, be turning away from old habits and instead be turning the pages of Scripture not merely seeking “knowledge”, but rather the “heart” of Jesus.)

    After I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I was immediately discipled by another man, Jeff, and I remember arguing with him for several months over my kitchen table and trying to find somewhere in the Bible where pre-marital sex was OK. (You see, (I say this shame-faced) I had quickly become involved in a rebound affair.) Well, needless to say, my search was futile; I didn’t find any permission in the Bible and I exited from my selfish and lustful situation. I distinctly remember turning over my singleness to God and really, truly accepting that if God wanted me to remain single, it was OK.  (I know I wanted to provide for a wife and family; after all, that had been my purpose in life.) Now, I just wanted His will to be done, NOT mine. I was tired of trying!

    As a brand new Christian, I also remember distinctly wondering where the heck all the Christians were? I believed I had hardly ever met any Christians before other than the ones I knew from church. My business was dependent on me meeting many people, and by this time I had met hundreds of people. It was completely fascinating to find out over the next months and years that the vast majority of people whom I had somehow clicked with relationally in social and business dealings turned out to know Jesus too! It was a blast to talk about Jesus together when we saw each other again. After all, we just moved from being superficial strangers to being brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Remember new believers, how fired up they are about knowing Jesus. Well, I was no exception! Suffice it to say that the Lord placed other people in my life to get me through my infancy.

    Soon, I truly realized that my spiritual void was gone, I mean way gone, I mean gone, gone. I was now literally 100% filled with the Holy Spirit! (I didn’t really fully grasp this till later, but I really knew that Jesus was a part of the very real Triune God; my spiritual void was indeed gone.) Sometimes I wonder about or even feel sorry for people who grew up in a Christian home, I think they never felt a real spiritual void or emptiness, so what happens if they begin to question their faith – what do they compare it too? They do not have a before and after. But all that matters is that those who truly have peace with God can “always” be thankful at every moment as we are very real eternal co-heirs with Christ and children of God.

    For the next four years I was a single Christian man very slowly growing in the Lord. I was very focused on building my business (more accurately said - trying to get out of debt). I became very involved in Promise Keepers in 1993, invested my time in group and men’s bible and topical studies, and in small group meetings with other brothers.

    One of the most significant of these meetings occurred for two years every Friday morning at 6:00 AM in my office at work. A highly successful and well known businessman drove up from Petaluma to meet me in my office in Santa Rosa. Together, we talked, prayed and studied the book of Proverbs and then Romans. I usually get emotional when I relate this story. You see, I was being mentored by this Godly man, and the dumbfounding point I want to make, is that I did not realize it till years later. In my pitiful pride, I thought he was coming to meet with me because he thought I was pretty good and we were both businessman. (You should realize that he was a big businessman and relatively speaking I was a very teeny businessman.) He poured into me in an incredible Christlike humble way. This was a guy that even his employees had a challenge getting a hold of because he was so busy with building his business. He was also an Elder in his church. In hindsight, the thought of him having any time for me at all seems ludicrous. One day I hope the Lord uses me to duplicate this mentoring process and pass it on.

    In January 1996, the Lord directed me to a Christian Singles Group where by the grace of God (that grace would be unmerited favor) I met Trina. My shy Trina actually co-founded and led the group. It sounds weird to say it, but at first sight I knew that she was the one that God had wanted me to wait for. I knew He answered my prayer. We were married in 1997. The Lord blessed me with a Christian wife who I love very much. (And am learning to love more and more each day as I learn to love Jesus more and more each day.)

    Now if you think our relationship was made in heaven, it was, but a lot of the time it was hell here on earth. You see, I still had a lot to learn (and still do :-).

    Church life was great, but more superficial than intimate.  Soon we went though a church split with severe conflict – again another paradox: during this time of conflict, I really grew in the Lord because of time spent in the Word and in meetings with other brothers and sisters during about a 10-month reconciliation process that never resulted in reconciliation. A process, I now believe, that God used to spread some sheep around.

    Today, looking back over my experiences, I can relate to what Paul says about himself in Philippians 3:4-14

    If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:
    • circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of
      Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews;
    • in regard to the law, a Pharisee;
    • as for zeal, persecuting the church;
    • as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

    But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
    Not that I have
    already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

    Gentlemen, I am sold out to Jesus Christ and my passion is that other men will be too! My life has been radically changed and blessed after I was literally born again!

    Among the many Scripture references in that tract was 2Cor 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! “(You see, we become a new creation when we are spiritually born again.) Paul says the same thing in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by FAITH in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

    After being a Christian for ten years, and for most of that timeframe only a child. One of the main things I learned was that to grow and/or mature spiritually you must personally partake and nourish yourself with God’s word; just like for children to grow physically, they must nourish themselves with food. And having a glass of 2% milk compared to working on a thick, juicy T-bone steak is a great metaphor for Bible Reading compared to Bible Study.

    Let me read a page from this tract (which by the way has a 1974 copyright), that I only just appreciated after reading it again after these many years: (You know, it’s comforting to know that God’s word doesn’t change when you think of the literally maddening change that is happening faster and faster in our world today.)

    “A New Life –
          Christianity is a satisfying way of life when lived according to God’s plan. As a ‘new person’ I can settle down to a mediocre, drab existence of “do’s” and “don’ts”…or I can enter into a realm that will make Christianity a glorious adventure!
          A whole new life opens up before me as I read and study my Bible. I am amazed to find it so up-to-date, so informative, so pertinent for my daily needs. The Christian philosophy of life gives me a new thought pattern which relieves the pressures and tensions of living. It teaches me to love my foes as well as my friend.
          As I read, I find that Jesus Christ abhorred the wrong, but deeply loved the wrong-doer. This, then, will be my pattern for life.
          This is a wonderful discovery! Now my life is dedicated to sharing my findings with those around me…on the campus…among my neighbors…in the office…with those, who are looking for reality.
          Such a life, I find, is God’s “norm” for the Christian. It is winsome and contagious…attractive and appealing. This is the life that counts!” 
            Tract = Life at its Best, Copyright 1971, 1974, Stonecroft Publications

    I can unequivocally state that I have been on a glorious adventure for the last ten years with all its ups and downs. Our “freedom from fear” that we have in Christ is indeed a gift.

    {I inserted follow-on comments here to Hans’ earlier talk, “Honoring our Veterans,” by pointing out that many people only know about three of the Four Freedoms coined by Franklin Roosevelt that we enjoy in our Country, namely: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion and Freedom from Want. People forget that because of our Military and the many ultimate sacrifices our fellow citizens made, we also enjoy the fourth Freedom, which is Freedom from Fear. Just think about war torn countries, and even what happened to Mervyn growing up in South Africa that he shared in his testimony. As Hans pointed out, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for our peace and freedom, just like our military personnel made sacrifices for our national peace and freedom. Apropos comments for today being an anniversary Day of Infamy.}

    As I daily remind myself that Christ suffered and died for me so that I could have everlasting life, I must die to myself so that Christ can live in me. Even though we become a new creation, those old habits motivated by our pride, selfishness, envy, lusts, etc. come creeping in. Moving out in faith, I want to walk the walk. I think the way we walk the walk is like Pastor Ray Stedman said: repent and believe, repent and believe, repent and believe.

    Gentlemen and brothers, I am not ashamed to say I love Jesus Christ. I have no problem abhorring the wrong (as that tract page said Jesus did), but I confess to you that I still have a ways to go to deeply love the wrong-doer. Maybe you can relate to that too.

    Well, I appreciate being able to share my heart with you this morning. I hope that the Lord used some of what I said to minister to you. I like to end with Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” I hope that just as God’s word is our sword – that we would sharpen each other by growing together in Christ to become the servant leaders He wants us to be. Thank you.


    Postscript (just written here, not spoken): Going in to my testimony with less than two hours of sleep, this morning will be my excuse for anything construed that was edifying other than to the Lord alone. I started writing this yesterday evening. I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit uses me and this testimony for God’s will and purpose.

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